The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Pure in Heart
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
The climax of Dante Alighieri's classic "Divine Comedy" is his imaginary journey to Heaven where he beholds God upon His resplendent throne. Of that glorious vision he sang:
"Because my sight, becoming purified,
Was entering more and more into the ray
Of the High Light which of itself is true."(1)
Dante felt that purity of vision would enable him to see God, the Source of all truth.
What a thrilling proclamation the Lord announced! We can be so blessed as to actually see the Eternal One upon whose face no mortal may look and live (Ex. 33:17-23). Who are "the pure in heart"? How shall they "see God"?
Sometimes, when discussing how to be saved, denominational people attempt to escape the force of plain teaching of the Scriptures by claiming, as they pat themselves on the left side of the chest, "I know I've been saved. I can feel it right here in my heart."
What is the heart? It is not, as some suppose, the physical organ which pumps the blood throughout the circulatory system. The Bible depicts the heart as that part of man which thinks (Matt. 9:4), reasons (Mk. 2:6, 8), ponders (Lk. 2:19), understands (Matt. 13:15), believes (Rom. 10:10), doubts (Mk. 11:23), imagines (Lk. 1:51), desires (Rom. 10:1), loves (Matt. 22:37), sorrows (Jn. 16:6), rejoices (Jn. 16:22; Acts 2:26), lusts (Rom. 1:24), despises (2 Sam. 6:16), purposes (Acts 11:23), determines (1 Cor. 7:37 ASV), obeys (Rom. 6:17, 18). These are functions of the intellect, emotions, and will. These faculties the Bible ascribes to the heart. It may be tried (1 Thess. 2:4), established (1 Thess. 3:13), comforted (Col. 4:8), directed (2 Thess. 3:5), stolen (2 Sam. 15:6), deceived (Rom. 16:18). None of this is possible to the physical heart.
The Bible is the seat of thoughts, motives, and desires. It is the residence of understanding, spring of emotions, and throne of obedience. The heart is involved in every act of rational man. Gold holds every man responsible for the condition of his own heart. 'Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.' (Prov. 4:23). Jesus blamed the Jews for the grossness of their heart. 'For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.' (Matt. 13:15).(4)
Who, then, are the "pure in heart"?
The pure in heart of our text are not: (1) People who have never sinned, for: 'All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' (Rom: 3:23). (2) Individuals who, having been forgiven, live above sin, that is, lead perfect sinless lives, for: 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' (1 Jn. 1:8).(5)
Remember, Jesus is using a figure of speech. The parts of the figure must agree. Those who are "pure in heart . . . shall see." The figure, are well as the recognized usage of the words employed, demands that the Lord is describing the happiness of those who have "clear" understanding of truth.
The 'pure in heart' are those who have a clear and unmixed understanding of the truth. Their understanding is unimpaired by an admixture of error.(6)
The sixth beatitude teaches the necessity of a clear understanding of truth for one to receive the blessings of the Heavenly kingdom.
Of the importance of truth, Jesus announced: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" Un. 8:32). Solomon admonished, "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Prov. 23:23). Jesus is the Truth (Jn. 14:6); the Word of God is the revelation of that Truth (Jn. 17:17). Without the love of the truth, we cannot be saved (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
How do "the pure in heart . . . see God?" I cannot improve upon the excellent comments penned by Brother J.P. Lusby on this matter, thus I simply quote them.
The word 'see' frequently means to discern, understand, comprehend, experience, possess, enjoy. Christ said some 'shall not see life.' (Jn. 3:36). That is, they shall not come into possession of life. David said God would not suffer 'thine Holy One to see corruption.' (Psa. 16:10). He shall not experience or enter into corruption. 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' (Jn. 3:3). The explanation Jesus gives of this statement is, 'He cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' (Jn. 3:5). Therefore, he cannot enjoy it.
To see God is to enter into relation with him, to possess his kingdom and enjoy its blessings. Yo enter into relation with God is impossible apart from truth (Jn. 8:32). Therefore, the supreme importance and absolute necessity of coming into a knowledge of the truth.
To see the Son is to see the Father. (Jn. 14:9). The multitudes saw the Son in his physical presence, but they did not understand his mission. They did not see him as 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' They did not perceive the nature of his work, therefore they did not understand the plan of his Father for their salvation. Consequently, they turned to a system of righteousness of their own devising, and refused to come unto Christ that they might have life. (Rom. 10:1-4; Jn. 5:40). They were not pure in heart. They were afflicted with double vision, which kept them from understanding and believing the truth. 'If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself.' (Jn. 7:17 ASV). There must be sincere desire.
There are three distinct kinds of sight- physical, mental, and spiritual. Physical sight enables us to distinguish material objects. Mental sight enables man to discover the laws of nature. Spiritual sight enables man to see clearly the unseen. (2 Cor. 4:18).
Surely no one would insist that to 'see God' means to discern him with the eye of physical vision. The scripture says: 'No man hath seen God at any time.' Neither is God seen by reason, apart from revelation. The philosopher and man of science have reasoned, philosophized and theorized, but they have traveled farther from God. 'For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.' (1 Cor. 1:21 ASV). It is through revelation men see God. This revelation is addressed to the spiritual sight, the heart of man. (1 Cor. 2:9-16). Those who are pure in heart see God through his revealed word; that is, those who have a true and accurate perception of the truth, through obedience to it, enter into covenant relation with him. Thus they become recipients of his grace and have fellowship with him.
Thayer informs us that the metaphorical use of the word translated 'see' is 'to be admitted into intimate and blessed fellowship with God in his future kingdom, Mt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14.' Of course, the kingdom was future at the time Christ preached on the mount, and he was furnishing his disciples some previews of the kingdom. Our text has reference to those who enter it, naming a condition upon which entrance is predicated. To see the kingdom is to enter into it. This is accomplished in the new birth (Jn. 3:3, 5). To see God is to enter into relation with him. This is accomplished by the sincere heart rendering obedience to the gospel. (Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 1:22, 23; Acts 2:36-47; Heb. 5:8, 9).(7)
The pure in heart shall see God. Those who have a clear understanding of the truth, as revealed in the Word of God, acting upon the truth, shall enter into a saved relationship with the Father. Therefore, I plead with you, "Harden not your hearts" to the truth (Heb. 3:7-8). Rather, be so receptive and obedient to the truth that when the Author of that truth stands before you as Judge, to announce your eternal fate, He may pronounce the happy sentence, "blessed are your eyes, for they see" (Matt. 13:16), that you may "enter . . . into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25:21).
1. Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, trans. John Ciardi (1954), in Renaissance Thought: Dante and Machiavelli, ed. Norman F. Cantor and Peter L. Klein (Waltham, Massachusetts, 1969), p. 86.
2. William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia, 1956), p. 101.
3. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Index-Lexicon to the New Testament, p. 77.
4. J.P. Lusby, "The Pure in Heart," Faith and Facts Quarterly, October, 1975, pp. 3-4.
5. Ibid., p. 6.
6. Ibid., p. 7.
7. Ibid., pp. 4-6.
Truth Magazine XX: 28, pp. 444-445